Growing up, I was a computer nerd. The only problem was that my family couldn’t afford a computer. I mean, I didn’t need the fancier, but even an Intel 386 SX was just out of reach. My parents definitely put education first, so they used the money they had to supplement the important academic scholarship that a local private high school had given me. Enrolling there not only increased my chances of being accepted into a good university, but it also gave me access to their great computer lab. It ended up transforming my life.
It all started with a prank
My best friend in my new high school was a nerd too, so on his 16th birthday he received a Gateway 2000 Intel Pentium 90, complete with a 17 “monitor and color printer. A cool $ 4,500 that I never could have gotten. imagine touching, let alone owning. Worse, because we were teenagers, he used every opportunity to brag about it. I was so passionate about technology, but without a personal computer, and I found this boasting maddening. I was also struck by the disconnect! I got the best grades, avoided typical high school temptations, and generally did everything I thought I was supposed to do, but still didn’t not the same opportunities. This sense of injustice that I felt during my formative years is something that I have carried with me throughout my life, and it is a big part of what has kept me going. brought to where I am today, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
One day he invited me over to his house to play with his new computer. At first I was terrified of breaking something so expensive, but it quickly passed when he started rambling again and again about how awesome it was. I started experimenting with it and realized that when he walked away I could trick him into believing that he accidentally deleted his advanced installation of Windows 3.11. I created a batch file that simply prints to the screen: “Windows has been deleted. . .“, then switched to the DOS shell. It was a terrifying sight, and even better, I could easily reverse it by simply deleting my file.
The prank worked better than I expected: tears were streaming down his once proud face. I immediately felt bad for making my best friend cry at my new school, so I deleted my file and taught him how it all worked. But for a split second, and for the very first time, I felt a sense of power. This feeling contrasted sharply with the constant helplessness I felt at being unable to keep up with my peers financially. It was a feeling I would remember all my life, and I was able to harness that power for a much more noble purpose.–this prompted me to pursue studies in computer engineering. (For the record, everything has been forgiven: eleven years after the incident, I was the best man at his wedding.)
Take advantage of everything the tech industry has to offer
After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University, I spent the next ten years enjoying all the tech industry had to offer. I did an internship on old “brick” phones at Motorola, a very stressful job at 100% technical consulting travel for Deloitte, work at all levels in a software startup, and even contributed to the Pentium 4 as Product Development Engineer at Intel. But by far the most rewarding moment I have ever had in tech was when I taught my mom how to email me from the computer I bought for her and my mom. father.
Eventually I returned to CMU to pursue an MBA and spent the next five years working in marketing, starting my own business, and returning to the West Coast to build software for Nike. After that, my career took an unexpected turn. My diversity of experiences and responsibilities led me to my dream job of teaching and guiding motivated adults in career change, who each have their own diversity of experiences and responsibilities, as a Coding Bootcamp instructor.
My opportunity to make a real impact
Now if you are a software developer this might sound silly. Why would I risk delaying the growth of my comfortable and lucrative career as a tech practitioner to teach newbies very basic things? But when I was approached by a recruiter to consider becoming an Instructor, I had a dazzling moment. I’ve always enjoyed helping people learn, from mentoring junior developers on my teams to teaching essential computer skills to non-technical friends, but this was the opportunity for me to make a real impact.
In my new line of work, I am not a code monkey. I don’t have to wonder if the last push of code will crash the server overnight. And instead of moving yet another meaningless ticket on the kanban board to have something to say at the stand-up the next day, I can honestly say that I improve the lives of real human beings.
There is one particular student whose story illustrates why I do what I do. Before participating in my program, he stocked the shelves of a local grocery store. His girlfriend was expecting their first baby, and he needed to make a sudden, radical change in his life in order to support his new family. So when he became the first of my students to land a job offer, he ran into my office, tears streaming down his face, and yelled, “They want me !!” I felt a joy at this moment that I never imagined could occur during office hours. I couldn’t believe it was my job.
In the midst of my excitement for him, I also suddenly realized something profound: he was now going to be the kind of parent who could afford to buy his son a computer.
If you are a doer, consider becoming a teacher
Now this job is not for everyone–it’s intense, stimulating and sometimes devouring–but it is also the most rewarding job I have ever done in my life. I encourage all of the developers reading this to take a moment and think about why you started in tech and what you find to be the most rewarding things not just in your job, but in your entire life. . If technology is just a way to achieve a certain job title or salary, then this is not the right decision for you. But if you’re the kind of person who thrives on using your power to make a lasting impact on others–not by playing pranks on them, but by raising them, by sharing your passion–then this role will suit you well. Our skills can be used to build a better future, one transformed life at a time. So, if you are a man of action, now is the time for you to consider becoming a teacher.